WANTING TO REDEFINE OURSELVES…

Whenever peNovel Newople hear the term “visible minorities” they immediately think Black people. I never did a survey of white people, but if I were to I’m sure they would say Black.
Cut it anyway you like, to my way of thinking that appellation is demeaning, galling… what with its underlying negative connotations.
Visible minority!
I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I never liked it, never will, especially in reference to Black people. You see, in this society hierarchically structured on race first and foremost, on wealth (financial well-being), on ethnic persuasion, and whatever else matters, we don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The onus, then, is on everyone who cannot fit into the primary category—the dominant demographic—White, to fit into their respective niches that they have been tacitly conditioned to place themselves, below what I refer to as the invisible majority.
All said and done, visible minorities spend their time elbowing for space in their respective categories, all the while attempting to worm their way up to the top.
Colour gradation comes into play here: White people at the top, there are the in-betweens, with Black people, because of various historical occurrences, relegated to the bottom. And given the social construct it seems like the bottom has become our permanent position from which we continue to (try and) extricate ourselves.
And given the history we have come out of, and the generational struggle to appropriate our image and identity in the process of redefining ourselves, not as peripheral, but as people who belong—we didn’t simply emerge out of a vacuum—so we, I, shouldn’t be defined by other people as a “visible minority.”
Irony of ironies, paradox of paradoxes, as far as human beings go, by luck of the draw I am among the most visible of all.
What’s all this ranting about?
So here we are… have been for generations, in this society dominated by an “invisible majority.” And there’s an invisible member of the “invisible majority” community, albeit of a minority community himself, rumbling about “visible minority” representation down at Montreal City Hall. This is something that has been ongoing…
Yes, for whatever reasons, STM Vice-Chairman Marvin Rotrand, cognizant of the historical blatant lack of representation of Montreal’s close to 200,000 “visible minorities” (Black people in this case) in the City Council has become an issue. Don’t know if it’s a legacy initiative for him. Nevertheless…
It finally came to a head last weekend when several “visible minorities” converged on the Cote-des-Neiges Cultural Centre to discuss the issue of nonwhite representation (or lack of same) down at City Hall, in City Council.
However one might feel about him, politically speaking, kudos to Marvin Rotrand for breaking the silence on the obvious: the historical and blatant lack of diversity in that political arena down at City Hall, specifically the lack of so-called “visible minorities.”
And thumbs down to Frantz Benjamin in his dual role as member and Chairman of the Montreal City Council for failing to call attention to that blatant lack of colour in that political venue and forum he lords over. Perhaps opting to remain in a political “fly in a pail of milk” mental space, to borrow a hockey sentiment used in a bygone era in relation to another popular activity, hockey. At that time “visible minorities” were essentially and effectively… deliberately barred from full participation in the sport.
But the powers-that-be in hockey eventually got wise by taking a giant leap into the 20th Century… realizing that there were a lot of good Black hockey talent out there, and that racism (keeping hockey White) was untenable. That common sense, practical decision is reflected today in hockey. And undoubtedly much to the chagrin of generations of White people who would’ve preferred (and some still do) things just the way they still are—to a certain extent—institutionalized.
Much like it continues to be down at Montreal City Hall. Despite a changing face in the 21st Century, the lingering practice of keeping City Council, the bailiwick of French Canadians, White, albeit with a handful of people of other ethno-cultural backgrounds (but of White skin) to represent their oft-touted specious definition of diversity.
I’m neither blind nor colour-blind; for years I’ve been seeing the same (colour) faces down at City Hall. They constitute primarily people of a homogenous and linguistic group who, despite a changing (more colourful) society, see no reason for “change” my messing with normal.
And popular… populist [sic] Mayor Denis Coderre is certainly no agent of change, at least not the kind Marvin Rotrand is espousing. As stated a while ago, he had an opportunity to demonstrate foresight and progressiveness (thinking outside the cultural box) by endorsing that Haitian lady, Kerland Mibel, in the April 24 by-election in Montreal North, a borough with a history of socio-economic problems: among others a large immigrant population, high rates of unemployment and poverty.
A well-known radio voice recently compared the Montreal North borough to one of those Paris Banlieues. “[…] Essentially neglected by politicians, constantly overlooked,” she said.
But as the mayor stated to the media when he selected his candidate, Black (who’s white) “will bring a lot of new ideas and skills to his team…she is well connected with many groups in Montreal North…”
To reiterate, keep that in mind when the 2017 municipal-borough elections take place.
Given his apparent powerful position, one would think Frantz Benjamin would be more vocal, even aligning with Marvin Rotrand to beat the drum of “visible minority” (non-) representation louder. Guess his hands are tied. In this case his tongue. He’s one, that proverbial fly, among many. So he can’t jeopardize his position by stepping out of line… rocking the political boat so to speak.
But remember, Frantz, the forum which you oversee (pun certainly intended) is visibly representative of a past (but still) institutionalized practice of exclusion of people whom those same elected people you oversee, make a habit of excluding, at least their constituents who vote for them. It’s a case of the old adage: “[my people] me, my family, my friends…” first and foremost.
And it’s obvious. Mayor Coderre’s naturally choosing a white candidate over a Black one in a district with a large visible minority constituency and immigrant population speaks volumes. Call it institutionalized predilection.
Frantz, the ‘bad ole days’ are gone, the institutionalized practices still exist, but we’re allowed to challenge the status quo. Think of the old “No taxation without representation” notion.
So, since we’re labeled—and will forever be—let us think about forging closer ties and begin voting strategically. By doing so, there inevitably will be some colour and flavour down at City Hall and in City Council.
All that said I still, and always will, resent being referred to as a “visible minority.”